MIAMI — It has been a particularly frigid winter here in New York, and we’ve faced more snowstorms than I can easily recount. So when Delta offered me the opportunity to attend a BusinessElite menu tasting featuring Blue Smoke barbecue, I didn’t need any convincing.

For those unaware, Blue Smoke is a Union Square Hospitality Group restaurant, an iconic New York restaurant brand famed for bringing concepts like Shake Shack to market. USHG is helmed by Danny Meyer, a James Beard Award-winning restauranteur.

Delta’s partnership with USHG extends back into the days of JFK Terminal 4 construction, where Delta helped Union Square launch its first two airport locations; a Shake Shack and a Blue Smoke to Go. Union Square was also brought in to assist Delta in designing its first Delta 360 Sky Club, at New York’s Citi Field, home of the New York Mets baseball team.

Coming back to the present day, Delta partnered with Union Square once more to create BusinessElite express meal options for New York – London flights. With some flights topping out at hardly six hours eastbound, passengers are looking to get to sleep as quickly as possible, prompting Delta and Union Square to create the Dine and Relax program. These one-tray meals allow for maximum rest time, without sacrificing food quality that Delta has continued to invest in in several markets. More on that later.

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I arrived at Blue Smoke at lunchtime, having fasted all morning in preparation for good eats. On today’s menu was a sampling of various dishes served onboard Delta flights, inspired by typical Blue Smoke cuisine and tailored to inflight specifications, explained Mark Maynard-Parisi, Senior Managing Partner of Blue Smoke Enterprises. To start, a delicious winter chopped salad with kale and various vegetables. It was a perfect starter, light yet filling, and a great way to kickoff the meal.

Along with the salad, staff brought out baskets of mini buttermilk biscuits and mini cornbread loaves. Delicious in their own right, Maynard-Parisi explained that the smaller size helps to control moisture and prevent the breads from getting too dry onboard. The accompanying honey butter was addicting, and eventually I had to push it away.

It’s finally barbecue time. We were brought a sampler of various kinds of meat, including Memphis baby back ribs, North Carolina Pulled Pork, and Smoked Black Pepper Sausage. All three were excellent, reminiscent of the barbecue staples in my home state of North Carolina. A splash of sweet barbecue sauce only added to the tender perfection. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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We ended on a sweet note with a decadent chocolate cupcake and a mini Key lime pie. The pie was especially cool and refreshing, and brought things full circle on an excellent meal.

Blue Smoke is not Delta’s only regional catering partnership. Miami chef Michelle Bernstein’s menus were launched on flights to Latin America, including Mexico City. California-based chef Michael Chiarello is responsible for developing JFK-LAX/SFO/SEA transcontinental BusinessElite menus, as well as transpacific flights to Japan.


West coast Delta Shuttle flights include meals from California-based LYFE Kitchen. These various partnerships not only incorporate variety into menu offerings, but allow for excellent quality control. Because each individual operation is regionally-focused, Delta’s partner chefs and companies are able to focus their oversight on only a handful of catering kitchens instead of attempting to oversee kitchens across the country.

“From our frequent service from New York to London-Heathrow with our new partners at Virgin Atlantic, to our $1.4 billion redevelopment at JFK’s Terminal 4 and our relationships with iconic New York brands like Union Square Hospitality Group, it’s clear that Delta is dedicated to providing the best travel experience for New Yorkers,” said Gail Grimmett, Delta’s senior vice president – New York.

Union Square Hospitality Group CEO Danny Meyer said, “We’ve long admired Delta’s commitment to inflight innovation, and BusinessElite provides an ideal stage for USHG to collaborate to help further enhance the inflight food and hospitality experience…”

These new meals are available on Delta’s three daily New York – London flights right now, and new dishes are being rotated in over the next few weeks. It’s delicious enhancement of the passenger experience.